Earlier today, the Zigbee Alliance unveiled the All Hubs Initiative, an ongoing effort within the standards body to significantly improve interoperability and usability within Smart Home networks. This ground-breaking initiative will also form the foundation for a number of key features of the upcoming Zigbee 3.1 specification.
While the All Hubs Initiative was only just publicly announced, MMB Networks has been involved with the All Hubs Initiative since its inception in 2017, along with numerous Smart Home and IoT industry leaders. We’ve been developing solutions based on the All Hubs Initiative since 2018, and it’s our ongoing privilege to continue this collaboration.
What is the All Hubs Initiative?
The All Hubs Initiative is an effort to establish true interoperability between platforms and devices, with interfaces that allow the platform or ecosystem vendor to dynamically configure the behaviour of devices on their network to the preferences of their application or users. Features and behaviours of devices that were previously “hardcoded” will be subject to this dynamic configuration, reducing the need for multiple product SKUs carrying different software builds, or cumbersome and power-consuming upgrades of connected devices in the field. This continues to provide flexibility and encourage innovation while reducing fragmentation.
Behind it all is our shared determination that all devices with the Zigbee logo should “just work”.
Why create the All Hubs Initiative?
Zigbee 3.0 is already the most mature wireless interoperability language, deployed to millions of homes and businesses and enabling over 3000 certified devices to interoperate. So at this advanced stage of development in the standard, it’s fair to ask why something as elemental as interoperability — the reliable and user-friendly interaction of products from different vendors — is still an issue to be addressed.
Zigbee is a rich and technically robust technology, representing over a decade of collaboration between industry leaders across every imaginable product category. As a “full stack” technology, Zigbee specifies both the network layer (how devices connect to each other and transport data), and the application layer (what that data is — i.e. the common language that devices speak to each other).
The Zigbee Cluster Library — the application layer standard at the heart of Zigbee in particular, is among the most advanced in the world today. Both the networking and application layer standards are supported by rigorous certification programs, and these programs help ensure that certified products stamped with the Zigbee logo meet the appropriate baseline of device behaviour and interoperability.
Zigbee was designed to enable flexibility and innovation in the IoT. Ecosystem vendors vary in their supported features, business models, value propositions, customer experience expectations, security requirements, and other factors. This is a natural consequence of openness and innovation in the IoT, and Zigbee includes a number of features that can be implemented in different ways in order to meet the varying needs of different applications. For example, a product vendor may be asked to change the sleepy characteristics of their battery-powered device, in order to strike a different balance between battery life and responsiveness.
However this can sometimes create challenges for device vendors who want to sell a standard product into multiple ecosystems, but often contend with different implementation requirements from each ecosystem. Ecosystems must also choose from a narrower set of devices whose vendors conform to their specific requirements. This in turn impacts consumers who want broad selection of IoT devices, while knowing they will work with any ecosystem they choose (today and tomorrow).
Why MMB Networks fully supports the All Hubs Initiative.
This kind of adaptability, and the challenges it solves for device vendors, is something we’re very familiar with. Our RapidConnect platform — the embedded interoperability software at the heart of all MMB’s products — has enabled this kind of dynamic configurability for over a decade.
This is precisely why MMB was one of the first companies to implement early All Hubs features in devices now in market, and why we’ve been a leading participant in the development of the formal specification. MMB Networks is very active in the Zigbee Alliance as a member of the board, and with leadership positions in marketing and technical roles. One of the major advantages of membership in industry organizations like the Alliance is our visibility and influence of the technologies that will drive the industry in the near future.